Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades’ cold shoulder to his Russian counterpart in New York is back in the news after Moscow’s spokeswoman poked fun at western leaders, claiming officials from big EU countries have been discretely requesting meetings while dissuading others in the bloc from sitting down for a chat.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Thursday suggested that western leaders including EU officials have been discretely requesting to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York despite reports of a supposed guideline banning such bilateral initiatives.
“Would you like to hear the names? I have them with me,” Zakharova told a famous TV host on Russia-1.
Zakharova claimed that French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, as well as a “representative from northern Europe” had requested to meet with Lavrov but kept the requests on the downlow.
It was not clear when exactly the alleged requests had been made when Zakharova made the claims on Thursday but the Russian spokeswoman added “this is the second day they have been requesting this.”
'On the one hand they dissuade EU member countries that have traditionally maintained ties with us... on other hand, these western grandees including the EU are themselves requesting to meet with us'
"On the one hand they dissuade EU member countries that have traditionally maintained with us historical, economic, humanitarian ties from communicating with us, they secretly forbid them, and the countries tell us about it. And on the other hand, these Western grandees, including the European Union, are themselves requesting to meet with us,” she said.
Zakharova did not name countries but on the same day it was reported that Anastasiades canceled a prescheduled meeting with Lavrov at the last minute “in anticipation” of EU guidelines on avoiding bilateral meetings with Russia. Lavrov, who had just arrived on Wednesday after a 12-hour flight along a northern route that bypassed “unfriendly countries,” was expected to meet Anastasiades in the evening.
Cypriot government spokesperson Marios Pelekanos said Cyprus’ Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides had attended an impromptu meeting with his EU counterparts in New York following a crucial national address in Moscow by Russian President Vladimir Putin, with the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell taking to Twitter to summarize a common response.
But Brussels do not give out instructions to member states regarding their bilateral meetings, according to a Nicosia professor, who criticized the decision as “unwise” and a "missed opportunity" for the EU and Cyprus.
Local political scientist George Kentas said there was no basis for making the choice to cancel the meeting with Lavrov, adding Anastasiades “did not size things up.”
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto reportedly did meet with Lavrov on Thursday hours after EU officials confirmed that member states had a verbal understanding not to meet with Russian officials as it "doesn't make much sense.”
Zakharova also appeared to poke fun at the situation on Telegram, a popular social media exchange, where she attached a photo of Lavrov greeting his counterpart from the UAE.
"Today, the isolation was especially painful. We were waiting for it with a dozen of our friends and colleagues, but it never came," Zakharova teased on Telegram.
Kentas argued that the leadership in the Republic of Cyprus “appears yet again not to appreciate that it has to defend its interests.”
“Canceling a meeting is not a simple act, it is a political statement and it goes without saying that it is offensive to the other side,” the Cypriot expert argued.